Thursday, September 27, 2007

Libraries and the Semantic Web

Interestingly, not much has been talked about in terms of librarianship and Semantic Web technologies. It's as if there's a gap that can never be bridged: the rustic gatekeeper of books and high-end cutting edge programmer-speak. Quite recently, Jane Greenberg, professor of Library and Information Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has pointed out in Advancing the Semantic Web via Library Functions that there are many similarities between the library and Semantic Web. Here are some:

(1) Each has developed as a response to an abundance of information

(2) Both have mission statements grounded in service, information access, and knowledge discovery

(3) Both have advanced as a result of international and national standards

(4) Both have grown due to a collaborative spirit

(5) Both have become a part of society's fabric (although not so much yet for the Semantic Web)


Anonymous said...


I'll let others respond to the 'rustic gatekeeper' comment, shall I? ;-)

Although I'm slightly surprised at the sector's lack of overt engagement with this obviously synergistic area too, there are certainly examples in which librarians are grasping the Semantic Web and in which Semantic Web developers are recognising the rich potential offered by libraries' structured data...

Ed Summers over at Library of Congress would be one person I'd pick out to mention. Also, the work OCLC and Zepheira are doing on PURL, and our own focus on the Talis Platform within Talis; that's Semantic Web through and through, and we have significant products in the final stages of beta that put semantic technologies such as RDF and SKOS to work in delivering richer, better, more flexible applications to libraries and their users. Things really begin to get interesting, though, when you take the next step from enabling existing product areas with semantic technologies to actually beginning to leverage the resulting connections by joining data up, and reusing those links, inferences and contexts to cross boundaries between libraries, systems, and application areas.

There's also library-directed research at institutes such as DERI here in Europe, and even conferences like the International Conference on Semantic Web and Digital Libraries, which was in India this year.

Finally - for now - there's also a special issue of Library Review in preparation; Digital Libraries and the Semantic Web: context, applications and research, and I'll be speaking on The Semantic Web and libraries - a perfect fit? at the Talis Insight conference in November It's funny that you mention Jane in your post, because I'll also be doing something for her later in November that encompasses some of these themes...

Yihong Ding said...

In fact, quite a few earlier semantic web researchers were original library science background. Just let you know.

-- Yihong